Chuck Chase describes himself as a "manly man." So he never imagined that one day he'd be onstage, in a ballet, dressed as a very tall woman. But when you love your children, you'll do anything for them.
Imagine Ballet Theatre performs "The Nutcracker" six times over five days beginning on Wednesday on the stage of Peery's Egyptian Theater in Ogden. Chase makes his debut as Mother Ginger in a matinee performance at 2 p.m. Dec. 18.
Chase has five children, ranging in age from 8 to 18, in Imagine Ballet Theatre's production this year. The 18-year-old, Eden, is the only member of the family who dances with the ballet on a regular basis.
"They need volunteers every year," Chuck Chase said. "We decided to make it a family project."
A few family members opted to stay in the audience, but everyone who wanted a part auditioned.
"I can't tell you how fun it's been," said Eden Chase. "They shine, and it's been fun to see them every Friday night there with me (at rehearsals), and we get to see each other's talents."
Family members dance parts ranging from angels to rats.
Chuck Chase's main role is as a father attending a party.
"Mainly, he's waltzing, and he plays a father of that era so he's very proper, so it's kind of acting and he doesn't really need the technique," said Eden, noting that her father hasn't had any formal dance training. "I think he's pretty good."
Of course, he has danced before.
"A little two-stepping when I was a teenager," he said, adding that he likes country music and only gained an appreciation for classical music and ballet as an adult.
"When your kids get involved in stuff, you sort of take a new view sometimes," he said.
Dancing with the stars
Although there are some adult dancers in this production, Ogden-based Imagine Ballet Theatre is primarily a youth company.
But Raymond Van Mason, the group's artistic director, says the troupe's performance of "The Nutcracker" could never be confused with a children's recital. It's a full-length show, accompanied with live music by the New American Philharmonic.
Many dancers take on three or four parts, Mason said, and his choreography is often more demanding than traditional versions. "In Ballet West's 'Nutcracker,' Clara is a little girl who doesn't really do anything but sit there in the second act. My girl has to wear pointe shoes and dance like crazy," he said.
Several dancers who have been part of the company in the past and are now studying at the university level are returning to dance in "The Nutcracker." The role of the Nutcracker Prince is being danced by Hua Zhang, a former principal with Ballet West.
Father as Mother
The role of Mother Ginger, a giant woman with small dancers scampering out from her skirt, is often played by a man. The same man has played the role for Imagine Ballet Theatre for four years.
"He just couldn't do the matinee, because he had to do something with his daughter," said Mason.
Chase volunteered to fill in, but it's not an easy part to step into because he's required to step around stage on stilts.
"I'm learning to walk on those goofy-looking stilts," Chase said, but added that he hasn't had a lot of practice because he was in a car accident two weeks ago. "I'm stiff and sore, and hurt my back."
In spite of the setback, Eden Chase says it's been fun to see her father get into the role.
"He's just taken it by the reins, and went with it," she said.
Chuck Chase is sure his other children will enjoy seeing him in the part, too.
"I have two older kids coming up ... and I'm sure they're going to go out of their way to go to the matinee, laugh, and put me on Facebook and embarrass me as much as they can," he said. "We're kind of guy guys in our family, so it's pretty funny."
Chase says he's a large man who likes to go four-wheeling, shoot guns and ride horses, but this ballet gig won't be that bad.
"I don't have to wear a tutu, so it'll be OK," he said.
Chase's 8-year-old daughter, Maurin, can't wait to see him in the Mother Ginger role.
"It's a huge dress," she said. "It's striped red and white, and they have this wig, and it's red and it's big and long."